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Rocking youth vote to power

Lisa King

Rocking youth vote to power

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WHAT EXACTLY does Paul Clarke do? He says it depends on the day of the week.
However, what he is focused on right now is a new campaign encouraging young people to exercise their right to vote.
The entrepreneur and lead man behind the Rock The Vote Barbados campaign said it’s a mission to engage and build young people’s political power.
Last December he and his colleagues launched the campaign which aims to provide a platform for the views of youth, encourage and empower young people in the political process, and ultimately turn out thousands of youth votes in the next political election due to be called by April 2013.
“Rock The Vote is to help young people understand you have a voice; you cannot be complaining if you do not get out there and vote,” Clarke said.
Speaking on the need for young people to become more conscious of politics, Clarke said they needed a better understanding of politics and they should look at our next generation of politicians as the current stock ages.
With people’s growing tendency not to exercise their right to vote, Clarke said, the message has to get out there: they need to emancipate themselves from mental slavery and become educated on what is happening around them.
“The educational system is fine but you need to educate yourself. Know what your leaders are doing; know what to expect from them. It is not just a matter of friendship or just voting because mommy or daddy used to vote for this party,” Clarke said.
“Older people are set in their ways, they are not looking at what is set out before them.”
Clarke said that in certain islands, “You could die because of the party you are supporting. We have the freedom here, the education system that has allowed us to mature past the point where we have to riot,” he said.
Rock The Vote is a grass-roots movement that started in the United States during the 2008 election campaign that led to Barack Obama’s becoming president.
Clarke said it was instrumental in getting the youth movement together that led to his significant win. It has been implemented across the world, St Lucia being the first in the Caribbean.
They will be using the creative industries to get the message across,  specifically music, film and entertainment, and pull in youth organizations with online media and social networks.
They have enlisted Pun De Scene TV, VISE Radio, the Barbados Youth Development Council, and will be
promoting the organization’s work as well as the movement.
Clarke said, “We have tried unconventional ways that will appeal to the youth. We will be using technology and will be launching a mobile app that allows people to know their registration process and polling stations based on where they live. That way we are talking to them on their level.”
“There is no reason why one of the guys from the block cannot rise up to become Prime Minister of Barbados,” he said.
Clarke stressed that Rock The Vote Barbados is not a political party or affiliated with any political party.
He said it is not controlled by anyone’s political agenda but their own – to empower young people who want to step up and take an interest in the future of Barbados, the way the country is run, and by whom.
“They need to put a plan of action in writing in terms of what they are planning to do for this country. Part of the campaign is Rock The Block, where they will go and shoot videos, and make short films to post on social media.
“We want to know who they are, what they do, what they like, hobbies, sports – that way the youth can relate to a person on a different level as opposed to seeing them as the candidate for the area, or you can go to them when you want something.”
Clarke said that they are not just asking young people to vote and when the politician gets in, back out of the promises made to the young people.
“We will have to come up with new ways of thinking. I am not saying that all of the ones that are there do not get it, some of them very much do.
“But because of what they think may be a lack of resources, they may think they cannot help a certain situation. It does not always take money, it is not always about financial resources.
“It is not a case where we’re saying we want you to give us money, but to help us get off the ground.  “It has to do with our thinking and our mindset – business is no longer business as usual – you have to look at unconventional ways of making things happen.”
Clarke said they may have to look at equity, where they have a barter system, where you trade off some space, some assistance, and then you can become part owner in the company.
“We will be riding them and delivering the message from young people to politician and vice versa. We need to keep them accountable.
“If you say you are going to do this for the youth and the country, do what you say you will be doing, do it or offer an explanation or alternative for what you will do since that did not work.